SC sees no urgency in hearing plea for budget postponement

06 January 2017

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear an ''urgent'' plea seeking a deferment of the union budget for 2017-18 till April, in view of the upcoming elections to five state assemblies.

The public interest petition filed by advocate M L Sharma alleges that the presentation of the union budget on 1 February, just ahead of the staggered elections between 4 February and 5 March, will influence voters.

This, the petitioner points out, would violate the Model Code of Conduct which has come into force with the announcement of the election schedule in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur between 4 February and 8 March.

The union government last month announced the advancing of the date of budget presentation from 28 February to 1 February, saying that this would help early allocation of resources.

A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice NV Ramana and Justice DY Chandrachud said that they would decide the issue when it comes in its normal course.

Opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool, Samajwadi Party, BSP, Janata Dal (U) and RJD had on Thursday approached the Election Commission (EC) with a plea that the union budget, to be announced just three days before polling begins, must be rescheduled.

The rescheduling of the budget on 1 February would give the government an unfair advantage ahead of the state elections, they pointed out.

Opposition parties had also earlier submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee requesting that the presentation of the union budget be deferred.

The ruling BJP termed it a non-issue and slammed the opposition for politicising the government's constitutional duty. ''The Budget is a constitutional duty of the government and not related to any one state. The presentation of the budget is not a sudden decision, rather it was decided beforehand with prior information to the stakeholders,'' said union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

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